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HS2 now a threat to last breeding population of hedgehogs in Regent’s Park

Thursday 19th November 2015

Hedgehog © Tom Marshall

Not long ago London Wildlife Trust learnt that the proposed HS2 rail link will build a haulage road across one of our most valuable nature reserves, Fray’s Farm Meadows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in Hillingdon. This may irrecoverably damage important wet grassland habitats, and we have petitioned Parliament to amend this proposal.

Small, round, brown and famously covered in spines, the hedgehog is one of the most familiar of Britain's wild mammals

It has now come to light that this rail link is also threatening to eradicate an area of The Regent’s Park, known to be a hedgehog hotspot. HS2 intend to commandeer the car park in the Outer Circle of The Regent’s Park and its surrounding green areas to use as a HGV holding area.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are petitioning against this decision, and are extremely concerned about the potential impacts that the proposed development would have on the hedgehogs. This is the only inner London greenspace known to support a breeding population of hedgehogs, currently regarded as “isolated and extremely vulnerable” during a survey of the Park in 2014. The hedgehog population in the car park area is thought to constitute 27% of the hedgehogs in central London.

At the beginning of 20th century, hedgehogs were abundant throughout Britain, with an estimated population of 30 million in the 1950s. Ten years ago that number had plummeted to just over 3 million hedgehogs throughout the country, and now research by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species appears to show that their numbers have declined further by a staggering 30%. There are thought to be fewer than 1 million hedgehogs left in Britain; records suggest that they have disappeared from many parts of London. Hedgehogs are classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP), and feature on a number of London borough BAPs. At their current rate of decline (5% per year) it is estimated that the iconic hedgehog could be extinct in much of Britain by 2025.

ZSL were granted a license to use the car park located on Gloucester Slips in July 1990, and since that time ZSL’s sensitive management of the land has resulted in the hedgehog population thriving, as well as that of other wildlife. It is the opinion of ZSL that relocation of the hedgehogs could not be achieved in a viable way, and it is unclear so far what mitigation measures HS2 propose to ensure hedgehogs will be able to survive on-going night time use of the area by 8 tonne HGVs.

Mathew Frith, Director of Conservation at London Wildlife Trust said: "The focus of HS2’s damaging environmental impacts have so far focused on ancient woodland and the Chilterns, but it is clear that it could have significant and irreversible damage to London’s wildlife. We have objected to the proposed use of the Gloucester Slips by HS2; we hope that they wouldn’t want to be associated with the loss of the most important breeding population of hedgehogs in inner London."

London Wildlife Trust is fighting the threat of HS2 at Frays Farm Meadows - find out more here.

#GivingTuesday - do something heroic for hedgehogs today.

Hedgehog image by Tom Marshall